Hearing management

Updated 06 December 2017

Race car fans have enhanced hearing abilities

As the Indy 500 unfolds this weekend, diehard race car fans may employ a trick that non-fans can scarcely imagine: They'll actually "see" the difference between the speeding competitors' engines with nothing but their ears.

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As the Indy 500 unfolds this weekend, diehard race car fans may employ a trick that non-fans can scarcely imagine: They'll actually "see" the difference between the speeding competitors' engines with nothing but their ears.

At least, that's what a new study from the Indiana University School of Medicine suggests.

Noting that prior research has revealed trained musicians can develop enhanced listening expertise over time, researchers from IU's department of otolaryngology tested the auditory skills of longtime race fans among 21 people, some of whom were hard core race fans and some of whom had never even been to a racetrack.

How the study was done

At the actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway, participants were exposed to a group of sounds for three seconds apiece, including the engine hum of Formula One cars, Indy cars, NASCAR engines, and motorcycles, and another group of sounds that included tractor noises and other racing sounds.

"We wanted to know if a person with more racing experience could extract more information from a sound than from someone with no experience," co-author Dr. Tonya R. Bergeson-Dana, director of IU's DeVault Otologic Research Laboratory, said.

Bergeson-Dana and her colleagues found that the more often a participant had been to a motor sports event, the better they were at correctly identifying the type of racing vehicle they heard.

However, race "experience" did not improve the listener's overall ability to distinguish between differing environmental sounds or tones, the authors noted.

"This research is interesting because it helps explain how the brain handles auditory information," said Dr Bergeson-Dana. "Musicians develop auditory skills based on years of formal training, but this study shows that people can also develop a form of auditory expertise with only informal experience."

The team plans to continue their work by exploring how such informally acquired expertise might help pit crews and drivers make near-instantaneous decisions when necessary. - (HealthDay News, June 20101)

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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